Release Date: Apr 7, 2009
Record label: Team Love
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The Felice Brothers had a banner year in 2008, ditching their gig as New York City street performers in favor of a record contract, increased distribution, and international tour dates. Released just 13 months after the self-titled Felice Brothers -- an album that served as the band's de facto introduction to the world at large -- Yonder Is the Clock offers another confident, rustic batch of northeastern Americana. Painted with earth tones and dotted with the same American archetypes that previously peppered Music from Big Pink, these songs draw easy parallels to the influences that spawned them, from Bob Dylan's drawl to the Band's rickety harmonies.
It’s easy to see why Conor Oberst fell for The Felice Brothers, picking them up for release on his fledgling Team Love imprint in much the same way Two Gallants found a home on Saddle Creek some years ago. As with that band, these Catskill natives mine fields riddled with Americana staples: murder, love, death and betrayal all contemplated against a backdrop of desolate train stations and dilapidated freighters, Coney Island beaches and New England winters. Taking its name from a Mark Twain passage, Yonder Is The Clock bleeds the kind of folksy sincerity that could so easily fall flat.
Country mice steeped in city vice Although it may not garner as much attention as the island of Manhattan, there’s an entire state surrounding New York City. Catskill-country natives The Felice Brothers—Simone, Ian and James, plus bandmates/honorary bros Christmas Clapton and Greg Farley—successfully straddle this rural/urban divide, honing their energetic, rustic tunes in both upstate chicken coops and NYC subways. Yonder Is The Clockit to the barn storm, the Felice Brothers will gladly deliver it.
Roots rock. It’s a genre in which creation is so helplessly intertwined with imitation by definition. And so a band like the Felice Brothers, as steeped in revivalism as anyone this side of the Hold Steady, becomes tragically hard to appreciate on its own merits. Three brothers and two friends from upstate New York, their 2008 Team Love debut transcended these limitations by way of sheer genuineness and warmth—and, of course, their powerful, self-assured songwriting.
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The thousands of bands and artists whom cite Bob Dylan as an influence are just that, thousands and thousands. And a multitude more will never cite him but will fill every crevice of their music with his masterful presence and influence. The Felice Brothers are a breath of whirling fresh air with their twisted stories about betrayal, relationships, humanity and even, sports.
Helmed by siblings Ian, Simone, and James, eldest of seven tumbling down from New York's Catskill Mountains, the Felice Brothers re-create their own Basement Tapes with a loose roots style and Ian's plodding and gritty vocals. The quintet's fourth LP opens dirgelike with the beautifully disillusioned "The Big Surprise" before exploding on "Penn Station," pounded out in a raucous Avett Brothers-meets-Malcolm Holcombe fervor. Ian's sandpaper voice arrests even as he evokes familiar like-throated singers: Tom Waits on "Buried in Ice" and the haunted piano waltz of "Sailor Song"; Bob Dylan everywhere, but especially "Ambulance Man" and "Boy From Lawrence County.